When you hear the word “botanicals,” you might think of flowers, but edible botanicals in beverages include a wide range of herbs, roots, bark, seeds, and flowers. These ingredients might be added to beverages to enhance sweeter flavor profiles with bitter, earthy, or spicy notes that create balance, interest, and complexity.
The growing use of botanicals in the beverage market is about more than just introducing new flavors; consumers are also looking for functional beverages designed with their health in mind.
Botanicals are becoming an important part of the health equation, thanks to their natural quantities of beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and nutrients. Which botanicals are set to make the biggest splash in the coming year?
Ginger and Ginseng Root
Anyone who likes ginger ale understands the appeal of adding this zesty, refreshing root to beverages, but it also has some health appeal. In addition to a peppery flavor profile that nicely offsets sweeter ingredients, ginger contains compounds that may aid in digestion, relieve nausea, and deliver antioxidant effects.
Ginseng, on the other hand, has a bitter, almost metallic flavor. Still, it provides a range of potential health benefits. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, it could help strengthen the immune system, improve or protect cognitive function, and boost energy.
Although sometimes confused for one another, ginger and ginseng are very different plants. However, it’s not uncommon to find the two paired, delivering a powerful combination of benefits.
Although long popular in South America, Yerba Maté is a relatively new addition to the North American market. This bitter tea is becoming more common as a coffee substitute because it contains similar amounts of caffeine but offers a slew of additional benefits, including antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, and iron.
That said, its bitter, earthy flavor doesn’t appeal to everyone. Yerba Maté can be something of an acquired taste, which may be why it’s showing up in flavored beverages from brands like Guayakí, Amaz, and ZOA.
As part of a blend, Yerba Maté elevates a flavor profile’s complexity and becomes more palatable for consumers raised on sweeter fare, like soda and sugary coffee drinks.
The flower of the elder tree has been used medicinally for centuries. Extracts are most frequently used to combat cold symptoms like sinus inflammation, although insufficient evidence exists to verify anecdotal claims of relief.
The recent inclusion of elderflower in beverages may have more to do with its appealing combination of flavors. Its fresh, fruity profile includes hints of pear and tropical fruit, as well as gentle, floral notes that deliver a green, grassy perfume.
Elderflower adds a sweet and refreshing buoyancy to beverages that isn’t overpowering, making it a great pairing with stronger ingredients like blackberry, strawberry, or lemon.
Echinacea is primarily known as an herbal supplement, often sold as a tincture that is taken to boost immunity and fight symptoms of the common cold.
This effect is thought to be due to antioxidants and compounds that may offer antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Although the content of the plant is not in question, scientific research to support these health claims is not yet conclusive.
One of the hallmarks of echinacea is a sharp, piney flavor that isn’t entirely appealing on its own. However, it can add incredible depth to a range of other flavors. The sweet zest of citrus or ginger pairs wonderfully with echinacea, particularly with the addition of a sweet ingredient like honey.
Botanicals in beverages aren’t new, but over the last few years, consumer experimentation with floral flavors has increased. When paired with the push for functional food and beverages, botanicals make for an exciting addition to all kinds of products.
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